Plenty of finger pointing went on following the Montreal Canadiens being ousted from the playoffs in five short games. A successful regular season would see them finish fourth overall in the NHL standings but success in Montreal is measured in Stanley Cup banners raised.
No one aside from Carey Price would feel the brunt of the blame more than David Desharnais.
Desharnais raised expectations for himself when he notched 60 points in 2011-12, his first full NHL campaign. Expectations reached a whole new level on March 15th when Desharnais inked a four year extension that will see him earn 3.5 million dollars per year for the next four seasons.
The problem is, David only put up 12 points in 21 games after signing his first big contract. Desharnais was never known as a top goal scoring threat, he is best known for his vision and playmaking skills, but scoring only two goals over that same 21 game stretch is not enough for someone who is counted on to be a top line center.
Desharnais suited up for every game during the lockout shortened season, scoring 28 points in 48 games. He followed that with just one assist in five playoff games. Half of a point per game is not nearly enough for him, especially considering his defensive game leaves much to be desired.
The question remains, can Desharnais bounce back and prove himself to be a valuable member of the Montreal Canadiens once again?
If history tells us anything, the answer is a resounding yes.
Standing at only five feet and eight inches tall, Desharnais was forced to beat the odds to make it anywhere in the hockey world. Undrafted when first eligible for the QMJHL draft, Desharnais would return to play Midget AAA in Quebec for another year before the Chicoutimi Sagueneens would select him 20th overall in the 2003 QMJHL draft.
Desharnais would reward the Sagueneens with 374 points in 262 games during his four year QMJHL career, proving everyone who passed over him in the 2002 QMJHL entry draft to be mistaken.
His impressive numbers in Chicoutimi were apparently not enough to impress any NHL team and Desharnais was passed over in the NHL draft as well. Entering the 2007-08 season, not only did Desharnais have no NHL team to call home, he was also unable to find an AHL to give him a chance. It was off to Cincinnati, where David would suit up for the ECHL’s Cyclones.
Desharnais would quickly prove to be too good of a player to be playing in the ECHL, two leagues below the National Hockey League. In his only season, the Cylcones would claim the regular season title and take home the Kelly Cup as playoff champions. Desharnais would lead league in points in both the regular season and playoffs and win the league’s MVP trophy all in his first year as a professional hockey player.
The Montreal Canadiens took notice of Desharnais exceptional ECHL season and signed him to an entry level deal that would send him to the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs to begin the 2008-09 campaign.
Desharnais would remain in Hamilton for two and a half seasons, once again proving himself to be quite capable of producing at the next level by scoring 181 points in 172 AHL games. His 78 points in just 60 games during the 2009-10 season placed him fourth among all AHLers.
Midway through the 2010-11 season, Desharnais would get his chance to crack the NHL. Many doubters still believed his lack of size would hold him back from translating his success to the game’s greatest league. He would pull on a Habs sweater 43 times that season, notching 22 points in the process.
Desharnais finally had his breakout NHL campaign during the 2011-12 season. Playing alongside Max Pacioretty and Erik Cole for much of the season, the nifty playmaker would pile up 44 assists and 60 points in his first full NHL season.
After being cast aside for bigger players his whole life, Desharnais had finally proven he is capable of producing on every stage. Due to his stature, Desharnais was forced to work harder than most of his peers to get his first big contract. Once he finally received the rich deal, there was a downturn in production.
Many critics cited the contract as the reason for his struggles down the stretch, implying he no longer worked hard after he secured his future earnings.
That just means there is one more thing left for Desharnais to prove. Can he show everyone that he is a big money player who deserves the rich contract that Marc Bergevin bestowed on him?
This is a question that many doubters who believe there is no place for Desharnais on the Canadiens team have been asking already.
He has proven you wrong many times in the past, what makes you so sure he can’t do it again?